Nine days ago, today’s featured artist was sitting on top of the world—almost literally, dangling from wires high atop NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. Figuratively, she was also performing at halftime of the most-watched program in the history of television, Super Bowl LI. And technical difficulties aside, she also performed at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards two days ago as a duet with famed metal band Metallica. All-in-all, a pretty solid week.
Stefani Germanotta was born March 28th of 1986 in Manhattan. Mom and dad provided an affluent Catholic upbringing for the family on the Upper West Side. At age four, Stefani began playing the piano, writing her first ballad at age thirteen. She would perform at open mic nights at age fourteen and starting acting in her high school musical productions. She even had a very small role as a mischievous classmate on The Sopranos in 2001.
Theater seemed to be her desired path in life, so she applied for the Collaborative Arts Project 21 at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Being one of only 20 students to gain early admission, she moved to an NYU dorm at age 17. Two years later, she would drop out of the Collaborate Arts program to focus on her music career.
Stefani would start her own band, the SGBand with some NYU friends. The band built a solid following around the Lower East Side club scene. Stefani would meet producer Rob Fusari in 2006 and begin dating him. In the process of looking for a stage moniker, Rob would often sing the Queen song ‘Radio Ga Ga” every time he saw her. One day autocorrect changed “Radio” to “Lady” in a text message and Stefani’s response was, “That’s it. Don’t ever call me Stefani again.”
In 2008 Lady Gaga released her first album and put the world on notice. Her music was a whole new electro-pop sound that took the music world by storm. Today I’m listening to her sophomore album Born This Way which was released in May of 2011. Despite positive reviews from critics, the album sold roughly seven million fewer copies than her debut record. In many ways it was an extension of her first record, but with a bit more instrumentation built in. It was very dance-pop—but more elements of rock, electronic, and a bit of disco for good measure.
Since her launch back in the 2008 time frame, it’s hard for anyone to not know who Lady Gaga is or have heard a few of her songs. It’s not your standard bubblegum track on Top 40 radio, there is way more substance to her music than that. Often there is a message of her activism in her work, so lyrically she’s not your average pop star. From a production standpoint, it’s not as though she cut a track in the studio and told a producer to put some glitter on it. Months are spent polishing her tracks, which is a huge differentiation between Lady Gaga and just about every other pop icon south of Beyoncé.
This type of music is not generally in my rotation, but I unquestionably understand why it sells. Lady Gaga has been making toe-tapping music with substance for almost a decade, and her staying power has shown by her recent appearances on the biggest stages. I haven’t even scratched the surface of her life, career and legacy, more for next time. Until then, pick Born This Way up for $5 bucks today, and put a small dent in the life and times of Gaga.
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